Empowering Montana Communities:

Public Health Departments Take the Lead in Innovative Substance Misuse Prevention with State Funding

Local public health departments are well-positioned to support community-based primary prevention efforts in Montana. With funding from the Montana DPHHS Behavioral Health and Development Disabilities Division (BHDD) Prevention Bureau, the UM Center partnered with four local public health departments to support new, ongoing, and innovative substance mis­use and primary prevention programming.

Primary prevention is the stage in prevention programming where the target audience is universal, and the efforts aim to intervene before health effects occur (CDC, n.d.). Primary prevention programming includes health education campaigns, neighborhood awareness campaigns, and preventing exposure to hazards. For this project, four local public health departments received funding to implement primary prevention approaches and participate in learning collaboratives that met monthly. The learning collaborations allowed participating local public health department staff to learn from each other and collaboratively solve program implementation challenges. This project funded the following local public health departments and their primary prevention projects:

  • Missoula County Public Health Department: ‘Youth Use of Marijuana Media Campaign Project’
  • Flathead County Public Health Department: ‘Universal Screening and Substance Use Education in Kalispell School District,’
  • Riverstone Health: ‘Making the Safe Choice, the Easy Choice Yellowstone County,’ a project focused on substance misuse prevention 
  • Gallatin County Public Health Department: ‘Preventing Substance Misuse Among Gallatin County Families with Expectant Parents or Families with Young Children; with a focus on Spanish Speaking families’

This funding opportunity was the first time the Center and the MT DPHHS Prevention Bureau have partnered directly with public health departments, and it served as a pilot for them to observe the benefits of funding public health departments to implement primary prevention programming, to understand better what future support might be needed, and to identify challenges. Participating local public health departments also benefitted from the opportunity to secure additional funds and support to launch new ideas. For example, Missoula Public Health and Healthy Missoula Youth created the CANNweChat cannabis awareness media campaign targeted at parents and is ready to be launched in February of 2024. Missoula Public Health has wanted to create a media campaign due to the increase in marijuana use. This project gave them the “financial resources and time to create comprehensive and effective media campaigns.” 

By better understanding local public health departments’ strategies for substance misuse primary prevention, the DPHHS Prevention Bureau hopes to braid multiple state funding sources together to make a more streamlined process for their contractors.

“Our team at the Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities BHDD, Division is grateful for the successful prevention work done during this pilot project. We want to thank all the contractors for their impressive projects on substance use prevention,” says Gina Tracy, BHDD, Block Grants Section Supervisor. 

The DPHHS Prevention Bureau is already working on a ‘Request for Funding Proposals’ (RFP) that will be informed by input from this project and will address some of the challenges public health departments faced, including the need for sustainable funding.

You can learn more about this grant through SAMHSA at, Substance Use Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Services Block Grant | SAMHSA.

Want to know more about this project?

Visit our our current projects webpage or email Maria Hamm: [email protected] for more information.

The Center for Children, Families & Workforce Development partners with the child protection, health, educational, and judicial systems to develop educational and training resources for professionals and caregivers statewide. We also conduct research that focuses on solving problems that impact children and families, and we work to help partnering agencies with capacity building and technical assistance.

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